Campaign '08, Congress

Clinton introduces a familiar-looking Arecibo bill

Friday’s Orlando Sentinel reports that senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has introduced legislation designed to support the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. The giant radio telescope is in danger of closing because of budget pressures on the National Science Foundation’s astronomy programs, much to the consternation of astronomers who use the facility for a variety of applications, including tracking near Earth objects.

The Sentinel article plays up the timing of Clinton’s legislation, introduced last week: the commonwealth will hold a primary on June 1, one of the last of campaign. “Arecibo has been in peril for a while now,” a co-director of Barack Obama’s Puerto Rico campaign told the paper. “The timing is more than suspect.” Clinton does have a legitimate case in introducing the legislation, since the observatory is run by Cornell University in New York state, but her Senate office didn’t explain why the bill was introduced now.

One thing the Sentinel article missed, though, is that Clinton’s bill, S. 2862, is effectively word-for-word identical to HR 3737, a bill introduced last October by Luis Fortuño, the commonwealth’s non-voting representative, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). (A press release issued by Clinton’s Senate office does note that a “similar” bill was introduced in the House, and includes a quote from Fortuño.) HR 3737 was assigned to the House Science and Technology Committee, which has not acted on the bill; the Senate, interestingly, sent S. 2862 to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and not the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee.

10 comments to Clinton introduces a familiar-looking Arecibo bill

  • Mike

    Unfortunately for Kennedy Space Center, the voters in Florida and Michigan won’t get the premium treatment that 48 other states, plus territories, are receiving.

    That’s politics for ya.

  • I don’t care what her motivations are, I’ll take it.

  • Vladislaw

    From the article:

    “Research performed here also led to the discovery of planets outside our solar system, and to at least one Nobel Prize in astronomy. Its yearly budget is $12.5 million a year.”

    They had a projected budget shortfall of 4 milllion or 30% of their budget. With this move Clinton must be planning to illustrate her leadership abilities. This would be laughable if it wasn’t such a serious issue. To get this bill through congress it will take, at the usual speed of congress, six months to a year. If it is just a ruse to appeal to potential voters, then it is a relatively inexpensive ploy because all she has to do is make the offer before the day of the vote.

    If she was truely a leader, and was serious about making up the budget shortfall or even obtaining the entire year’s budget, she would just issue a call to her millions of supporters to toss a buck into an envelope with ARECIBO written on it and mail it in. It would be paid for in a week.

    In my opinion she is failing to show leadership on this issue and in general. She has a bully pulpit now and free media attention and she is not utilizing a free good.

  • Norm Hartnett

    It should be noted that neither Senator Clinton’s Bill nor Representative Luis Fortuño’s Bill would have provided any additional funding for the NSF. They simply redirect funding, taking from projects the NSF had designated as more worthwhile.

    It is all smoke and mirrors, politics without substance.

  • Kevin Matalin

    “They had a projected budget shortfall of 4 milllion or 30% of their budget.”

    Er… the problem is continued funding for Arecibo into the future, not a one-shot infusion of cash.

  • Habitat Hermit

    Didn’t the NSF recently say Arecibo was going to be safe for the future anyhow?

  • Vladislaw

    Kevin, I understand that, but this is not something that just suddenly appeared, they have been cash strapped for awhile. If a facility is facing closure talented people start to leave and look for work somewhere else.
    So it faces short term AND long term financing. The bill is for REINSTATING funding, if the bill fails then there isn’t any short term OR Long term money AT ALL.

    My point is if this facility truely is in danger of being closed in the short term what does a true leader do? Do they stick their finger in the dike so to speak, and stop the leaking NOW and work towards permenantly fixing the leak later. OR do they run away and introduce a MEASURE that MIGHT be enacted that will save it later.

  • Norm Hartnett

    Has some details on the specific funding cuts anticipated as well as some detail on how the facility is managed. Given that there were about a half a billion dollars in mark ups in the 2008 NASA budget I don’t see why Cornell shouldn’t get it’s piece of the pork.

    Of course if the government goes to a continuing resolution for the 2009 budget, as appears likely, this will be moot.

  • Norm Hartnett

    You know, in looking at the specific cuts, I’m wondering just how many chubby little Cornell bureaucrats are sucking on this govenment teat. How much of that $12.5 million is going to management?

    BTW to summerize the cuts, $2m 2007, $0.85m 2009, and “The NSF plans to further cut the budget in 2010 and again drastically cut it in 2011″

  • My understanding (and apologies for the lateness of my comment) is that Cornell isn’t making a great deal of cash (after they kick some back to a postdoc or two) from administering NAIC. Most of the staff are in Puerto Rico, at lower than standard Cornell overhead rates.

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